Flying Chickens and Other Kitchen Mishaps

I recently reorganized my kitchen. Our home’s hub, it’s where meals are shared, crafts and homework’s done, and friends gather.  We don’t eat out often; it’s costly, usually non-organic and often disappointing.  Anything we order, I can make.  I’m tickled when asked cooking advice. Cooking’s part skill, part creativity, and lots of practice! Now, I’m not one to brag, but in the kitchen I feel like a black-belt Ninja!  It wasn’t always so . … 

Homework and after-school snacks at the kitchen table are better with a buddy.

Nothing beats an organized kitchen. Jars are my weakness. I use one to keep my dishwasher detergent dry and clump-free, with a re-purposed coffee scoop. Everything’s visually less cluttered in a jar as opposed to a commercially-labeled box.

My breadbox is useful and charming.  I love my new big jar with the red top, a recent find to hold my MaryJane’s Budget mix  purchased in bulk. “Bakeovers” are a family-dinner favorite.

We’re also a home that’s never been without a pet. I learned long ago if food isn’t out of reach of a tall-as-me-on-its-hind-legs-pooch or kitty able-to leap-tall-counters-in-a-single-bound, said edibles will disappear. With our Dobermans, nothing was safe, no shelf tall enough.  Everything had to be contained or risk being eaten. Our current fur-baby’s more polite and “asks” first…unless she smells fresh bread.  Then she morphs into something akin to the Looney-Toons’ Tasmanian Devil, thinking nothing of being a thief, once scaling the counter and scarfing two loaves of fresh bread I’d taken an entire afternoon baking! My lifesaver: a vintage-inspired bread box.  Jars and tins and canisters!  Oh my!

What’s a fur-parent to do? Nothing s safe on a counter top.

“Fresh bread!! I’ll do anything!!”

Going through my cabinets, there were some unnecessary gadgets. Our grandmothers made three square meals from scratch, with way less tools! Aside from my food processor, I purged myself of anything meant to slice, dice, or chop: break-easy gadgets offering a good chance for bodily harm. It took me ten minutes to remember what one gadget even was.  A grid of metal teeth with a plastic handle on top, it was meant to cut perfectly-shaped fries.  The only end result I ever got was an almost severed finger. Nothin’ beats a set of good kitchen knives.

We once fell for an infomercial, ordering a toaster-oven-look-alike, meant to be a rotisserie-chicken oven.  “Save money not buying ready-made rotisserie!”  Not like we everbought pre-cooked chickens, but we just had to have that oven.  When it arrived, it had more pieces than a jigsaw puzzle, and took more counter space than a small building.  Our first “stab”  at roasting chicken was a disaster.  Getting the raw bird onto the rotisserie took two people and a prayer, the whole process resembling a medieval torture ritual.  As the chicken cooked, one was supposed to turn the crank on the outside of the oven, easy-peasy.  Not so.  The bird’s legs began to sag while cooking, making it possible to only half-turn the handle.  Sticky, greasy juices escaped through the door and frame, adhering to everything in an oozing, hot, mess.  When the chicken finally appeared done, it took two people to free the steaming  bird from the searing sword.  One of us held the stick, while the other pulled and pried, trying not to get branded in the process.  After one really hard tug, the bird gave up, slid off, and sailed through the air.  That chicken flew better that day than it ever did  with wings and feathers! We ended up throwing the oven – grease and all, back in the box and back to whence it came! All we needed was a tasty dry rub and a roasting pan.

One culinary accomplishment I almost gave up on: homemade pizza crust.  I bake desserts and bread like nobody’s business, and mastered pie crust. There’s millions of people every day in pizza shops all over the world able to whip up and toss dough, no problem. Not me. I was dough-challenged. Always believing in avoiding processed foods, before I really understood what eating organic meant or how shortcuts in our groceries provide lab-worthy concoctions resembling real food, I wasn’t always making everything from scratch. Takeout’s costly and frozen pizzas have preservatives impossible to pronounce no matter what language you speak (and taste like it).  I had to make dough.  The Little Engine that Could came to mind while purchasing yeast. “I think I can…”  Mind you, it’s with good reason I feared this task.  My first attempt was disastrous, after purchasing a bag of dough from a grocery-store pizza shop with instructions on how to knead, toss, and bake…voila!  I ended up with the same ball of dough I started with, no flatter than my Mommy-belly after Thanksgiving dinner. The next attempt, I purchased one of those refrigerated tubes of dough. “Pierce tube, unroll dough, and press into corners of pan”.  The tube exploded on impact. Years later, I’m still finding dough remnants on the ceiling.  Finally I found a good recipe.  Once mixed, it called for four minutes of kneading with floured hands, and rolling out right on the pan. Kneading, I became hopeful. It was soft, like a baby’s chubby tummy. Would it roll out into a flat orb of crust…an empty canvas, to be made into a work of edible art?  Yes! I finished it with homemade sauce, fresh-grated cheese, garden tomatoes still warm from the sun, and basil grown from seed.  It was almost too beautiful to eat!  I’ve made countless pizzas ever since. 

So what was different about that attempt than previous ones?  I had to make pizza-dough if we wanted pizza. Take-out and non-organic weren’t options.  Sometimes, it’s when facing something head-on that we find out we can do the impossible…that day, it was pizza crust.   

So what makes a good cook, well-seasoned like a cast-iron skillet?  Simple tools, organic ingredients, great recipes, practice…and a heaping helping of love!

***Share with me your kitchen mishaps or weird gadgets you thought you couldn’t live without (but could)…Let me know you stopped by and leave a comment!***
Until next time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 13 Comments

  1. pbach1 says:

    so, this wonderful pizza dough — have you shared/would you please share the recipe? it really sounds too good to be true!

  2. denise says:

    You should post your pizza dough recipe! Your loaves of bread look good too! Yes, I have gadgets and too many of them too. I may have to do a purging soon too. thanks!

    Thanks for reading!  Here is that recipe you asked for.  I love it.  I also make wheat crust by using the first cup in white, unbleached flour and the rest of the flour as wheat.  Makes a nice, light wheat crust.

    • 1 Cup Flour + additional
    • 1 envelope dry yeast
    • 1-1/2 tsp sugar
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 2/3 cup warm water
    • 3 TBSP olive oil

    Mix 1 cup flour with remaining ingredients. Do not wait for dough to rise. Add 1/2 cup flour and form a ball (additional flour may be used/needed). Knead dough on a floured surface for four minutes. Roll dough out directly onto greased pan or pizza stone.  Add sauce and toppings and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

    I also thought you might like another  recipe I made for a quick Friday night.  It’s my one-skillet meal I make using MaryJane’s Budget Mix Bakeover method:

    Brown one pound of ground beef with one finely chopped, small yellow onion and two cloves of chopped garlic in a cast-iron skillet.  Drain excess fat.  Add one can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (or one can of black beans, rinsed and drained).  Add one can of chopped tomatoes, 1/3 cup of sweet corn kernels (if using frozen, rinse under warm water first).  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp.EACH of cayenne pepper, cumin, and salt and pepper.  Add two dashes of Worcestershire sauce, stir everything together well and sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Top with rolled crust made from 1-1/2 cups MaryJane’s Budget Mix, 3 TBSP butter, and 1/2 cup waterBake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.  

    Enjoy!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Beverly Battaglia says:

    l love your pictures. Pizza is beautiful. Funny and cute article.
    Love you,
    Mother

    Thanks, Mom!  Love you, too.  Glad you enjoyed it.
    Big hugs, Nicole

  4. Laurie Dimino says:

    Hi Nicole,
    What an entertaining post!
    Kudos to you for mastering the art of cooking! The biggest "problem" I have is coming up with "WHAT" to cook. We of course have our few family favorites, but I long for different (yet simple) dishes that EVERYONE in the house will eat. With 2 kids- one of whom is a rather picky eater, it can certainly be a challenge. My next issue is TIME. It seems that once I get home from work and help with homework, the daunting task of "what to cook for dinner" looms overhead like a black cloud sometimes.
    I have found that if I plan out the weeks "menu" ahead of time, that is a HUGE help.
    I would have to say that the "gadget" in my kitchen which I "HAD" to have, yet have NEVER used, is the "ultimate mandolin" from Pampered Chef.
    Quite honestly, I must be gadget challenged, because I have never been able to figure out how to properly use it! Seems like more work than its worth to me- but I could be wrong.
    I do have a "manual" food processor of sorts that I bought at a Tupperware party that I use constantly.
    I am in the process of looking at food dehydrators on Amazon. Any thoughts or suggestions about that???
    LOL.
    Thanks as always for your wonderful blog my dear friend.
    Keep Cookin’!
    Hugs,
    Laurie

    Hi Laurie!  Funny, I too, have that same Mandolin.  I have used a few times, but not as often as I thought I would.  It scares me!

    I have been doing the same thing you are searching for dehydrators.  I was inspired by the Mountain Farmgirl’s post last year on food dehydration. 

    For inspiration on what to cook, have you checked out the "What’s for Dinner" thread on the Farmgirl Forum?  I started it over a year ago, and am surprised as it keeps on going.  I go through it for inspiration from all our farmgirl sisters.

    Happy Cooking, Farmsister!  Hugs! -Nicole

  5. Adrienne says:

    OK, here goes. My first kitchen disaster came as I, a new bride, decided to make sugar cookies for my husband to take to work in his lunch. I thought how tough can this be? I have all the ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder…um, no, I have baking soda. Shrug. Same thing. The sugar "cookie" covered the entire cookie sheet and was 1/2" thick. It tasted fine so I broke off hunks and put them in a plastic bag. When my husband came home with his empty lunchbox, he told me with a laugh how much the other guys at work liked my "cookie." Yep, he announced at lunch that his wife made sugar cookies. They waited hungrily until he pulled out the broken hunks of the "cookie" to share. While they were giggling and stuffing their faces, he related my cooking disaster. I never baked anything for him again and that’s one of the reasons he was my first husband.

    Oh my!  Silly boys – didn’t they realize that they were Cookie Bars?  Thanks for sharing!  :)
    Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Kelly Ryan says:

    I loved reading this post Nicole! I could totally relate to your pizza crust story. I have also tried a variety of ways to make pizza crust and my attempts have all been disastrous also! One was so bad even our dog wouldn’t eat it!
    Could you share your recipe for pizza crust?
    One pizza option that my son and I love is we do "Make your own pizzas" where I use whole wheat tortillas and then just put on sauce and whatever toppings we want and then cheese. I bake the tortillias first for 5 min ( 400 degrees) and then bake them for another 5 after the toppings are on and they turn out delicious every time!
    Loved your posting!
    Kelly

    Kelly, Thanks for commenting!  The crust recipe is above.  What a great idea for the "tortilla" pizzas!  I will use that to make my daughter a nice, warm after-school snack.  She’s going through a major growth spurt and that will make a nice, wholesome treat!  Thank you for sharing!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  7. Shari Doty says:

    Why not try MaryJane’s pan bread recipe? It makes a fabulous pizza crust, and requires no yeast.

    Of course, that is a wonderful recipe, too. Her Irish Soda bread is another great recipe if you are looking for something without yeast – I’ll be making that a lot this month! -Nicole

  8. denise says:

    THANKS! for posting the recipes! I will certainly give them a try.

    You are so welcome!  Enjoy! -Nicole

  9. Jennifer says:

    I thought I would include a bread-related, disappointment-turned-delicious story. I made whole wheat bread dough yesterday. I used dough enhancer, vital wheat gluten and potato flakes. All the tricks for a fluffy loaf. Oh, not so! The dough never rose more than about 10%. The dough tasted fine, and it was getting close to dinnertime, so I cut off small pieces of dough, rolled it super thin and "baked" it in my cast iron skillet like naan or tortillas. It was a hit! And because I didn’t use the whole thing, I put the dough in the fridge for later. I expect it to last about a week, depending on how much more we all want. Happy accidents, you’ve got to love them. Thanks for the blog. I love reading it.
    You new friend,
    Jennifer

    Hi Jennifer, and thank you for reading and commenting!  Great story, and love how it turned out.  Did you know that it was by accident my (and America’s) favorite cookie was made?  In 1930, the owner at the Toll House Inn tried to substitute chocolate chips for baking chocolate in her cookie recipe They did not melt, thus the invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie! Happy Cooking and Baking!  Hugs, Nicole

  10. Sarah says:

    I just HAD to have a quesadilla maker. I really did make them frequently too, so it felt justified. Six months later, three out of the four of us were diagnosed with dairy allergies. Oh well! No more cheese for us!

    Sarah, Oh No!  I had dairy allergies as a child and couldn’t eat any dairy for several years…I feel for you!  I love, love, love cheese.  Is there a non-dairy version out there you might be able to use, maybe in the Vegan aisle?  At least your quesadilla maker got some use.

    Funny story…I bought a state-of-the-art, digital pressure cooker. Then I saw "Breakfast at Tiffany’s".  When Audrey Hepburn’s pressure cooker exploded, it scared me to use mine!  It sat, brand new and unused for a decade!  I just pulled it out a few months ago to quickly make rice when I had forgotten it for dinner.  Now it’s one of my favorite things! At least it is now getting lots of use. 

    Thanks for reading and commenting! -Nicole

  11. Rose says:

    Nicole,

    Thanks for another great blog and pizza dough recipe! I have just gotten my KitchenAid mixer and Cuisinart from my storage unit. I am ready to start cooking and eating healthy again.

    Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and looking at instant pancake mixes. I thought of you with all your good homemade cooking and put it back on the shelf. You inspired me to buy the ingredients to make them from scratch. I even bought organic butter!

    Got a recipe from buttermilk pancakes? My cookbooks are still in storage.

    Rose

    Hi Rose!  I am so proud of you!  You will notice such a difference in how you feel when eating organic.  I have a great buttermilk pancake recipe!

    • 1 cup flour (use unbleached organic)
    • 1 TBSP sugar (use unbleached organic)
    • 1 tsp baking powder (use aluminum-free)
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 beaten egg
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 2TBSP cooking oil (can use organic coconut oil)

    Stir together dry ingredients; make a well in the middle and set aside.  In another bowl, combine wet ingredients.  Add to dry ingredients and mix just to moisten (batter will be lumpy).    Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot greased skillet and cook on medium heat until bubbly, flip and cook a few minutes on second side.  Enjoy with organic maple syrup!

    I am so happy I inspired you, means a lot.  Thanks for commenting! Hugs, Nicole

  12. ulla christensen says:

    Dear Nicole,
    You are so good to make food , we always like that.
    Nice picture of you and Audrey
    Love an hug fra Torben og Ulla Dk

    Hej Mor!

    Thank YOU for teaching ME how to cook some really great Danish recipes!  Hugs, Nicole

  13. Joey says:

    Hi Nicole,
    As always, I love your website. Your pizza looks amazing and thanks for the recipes. I enjoyed seeing the pic of Audrey too. Hugs, Joey

    Hi Joey!! Thanks, darlin’!  Hope you are doing well!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

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